Anyone looking for a new ride. Couples seeking a new washing machine. Parents looking for a graphics card for their kid’s computer. People planning to buy a new toaster. Everyone is running into the same problem: No availability because the products all require a semiconductor chip, of which there remains a global shortage.

The lack of semiconductor chips, which are about the size of a quarter, are being felt in nearly every facet of anything electrical. It’s even affecting furniture sales.

“We hear of disruptions in the furniture industry, even,” said Midland Ford General Manager Chad Wilson. “So, it’s not just cars — it’s across the manufacturing spectrum.”

The impact on automobiles

“Oh, yes, it has definitely affected us. We have a lot less cars for sale than we normally do,” Wilson said.

He said the dealership started to feel the crunch around March.

“We’ve already seen a small increase. It’s just going to be a very slow, gradual replenishment. I don’t want to say a return to normal, but I think it will continue increasing gradually over the next couple of years.”

While the automobile industry has had its share of problems, the chip has thrust them into uncharted territory.

“Over the years, there have been a lot of different interruptions to the industry’s manufacturing processes — but nothing like this,” Wilson said. “Not for this long.

“The customers have been great,” Wilson added. “The disruptions the pandemic wrought upon everyone opened everyone’s eyes, that we’re all affected. Who would have thought there would be a time when you would go to the store and not be able to get toilet paper?”

Meanwhile, unfinished vehicles are flooding once vacant parking lots while they wait to be completed. A few lots along I-75 are said to house rows and rows of such vehicles.

Ford reportedly has an estimated 60,000 vehicles awaiting semiconductor chips while GMC has about 200,000 vehicles. According to reports, Ford has an estimated 60,000 vehicles awaiting semiconductor chips while GMC has about 200,000. Car makers expect the chips to gradually free-up through mid-2022 but expect a tight surplus until mid-2023. It’s unknown who will get first dibs when the chips begin to readily hit the market again. Or if there will be a somewhat even divide.

Don’t sell before you buy

Neandra Davis and her boyfriend, of Freeland, sold their 2015 Ford Ranger in hopes of buying a new full-sized truck.

With the cash in hand for a down payment, they went to a local dealership to buy their dream truck. But the truck they decided on, a 2021 Chevrolet Silverado with certain amenities, is not in stock due to the chip shortage.

“It was like, for the first time we had the cash, and they didn’t have the vehicle we wanted,” Davis said.

“They had trucks available, just not the one we really wanted,” she said, noting they were told it could take a few months, but they might get it sooner.

Not being able to do without a vehicle or afford a daily Uber, they opted to buy a cheaper used vehicle. She said if they had to do it over again, they would have made sure the vehicle was available to purchase now and not just in pictures.

The couple used $500 from their down payment money to buy a used car and continue to search online and at car lots for that one full-sized truck they want.

“This is our first new vehicle,” Davis said.

Auto shops not feeling the pinch as much as dealerships

At Quality Transmission and Auto Repair employee Kevin Lautner said they aren’t feeling a chip ache exactly.

“Parts shortage, yes. But we haven’t had trouble with chips,” Lautner said.

He said the availability of any car parts could be impacted.

“Any car parts,” he said. “Some are readily available, some are not. Some are taking an extremely long time to get because of shipping slowdowns.”

Appliances feeling the heat

Every appliance — including the toaster — is feeling the effect of a chip shortage said Sanford’s Samaritan Appliance General Manager Heather Parker.

“The chip shortage is getting a little better,” Parker said of appliances, yet notes there is no set time when the surplus will return.

“Almost everything is made with a board (chip),” Parker said. “There’s only a few items that don’t have one.”

Parker said it’s not only the semiconductor chips causing havoc for appliances. She said it’s also the insulation. She recently returned from a conference in Nashville, where she and others learned that appliances, autos, and furniture is about to take an additional beating. One that has already started to rise.

According to the Associated Press, petrochemical companies suffered by the pandemic and how consumers and businesses responded to it. Petrochemicals, made from oil, suffered a double whammy when freezing weather struck Texas, hurricanes along the Gulf Coast and a lightning strike in Louisiana.

The Bitcoin variable

“The chip shortage has affected our ability to get supplies and has certainly had an impact on prices,” said Compucom Computers repair technician Zac Anderson.

“The biggest thing that’s become an issue are GPUs (graphics processing unit) or graphics cards,” Anderson said. “I’ve been able to get some from time to time. We’re starting to be able to get them, but not at a price I’d want to sell them at.

“People are paying two to three times the normal price, if they’re even lucky enough to find them,” Anderson added. “Graphics cards are going to be the one thing that, if you came in today, I probably couldn’t get one for you.”

Anderson wags a finger at both a silicon shortage and bitcoin mining, which is the process of creating new bitcoin by solving a computational puzzle.

“To be able to mine crypto currency, users put multiple processors together to perform the math problems involved in the process,” Anderson said. “They’re buying them up (hundreds at a time), and even by the palette. So, everyday users simply can’t get their hands on them now.”

Anderson said it’s a supply and demand issue.

“A: People were and are using computers more for entertainment, being stuck inside every day. B: The amount of people working or going to school from home has gone up so much. Meanwhile, during the height of COVID, there were shipping restrictions, widespread labor shortages, and factories shutting down, especially in China. So, supply went through the basement, while demand went through the roof.”

As big businesses find solutions, Uncle Sam may get involved

Some big companies have — or are planning — to make their own semiconductor chip processors. Included are Samsung, Tesla, Dell and Google. There is speculation that if the chip crisis continues, more companies may resort to making their own. Even Amazon is developing its own chip.

The chip issue hasn’t escaped the attention of the White House. Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo and National Economic Council Director Brian Deese convened semiconductor industry participants and discussed the progress industry has made to address supply chain challenges and increase supply chain transparency, following convenings hosted in April and May, according to a press release the White House issued last week. The progress includes improved communication and trust across the supply chain and improvements in the supply chain practices of chip consumers.

The Biden Administration reaffirmed that industry needs to be in the lead in resolving the supply chain bottlenecks that are occurring due to the global chip shortage. Industry reiterated its commitment to transparency initiatives, which will help keep Americans at work and allow factories to produce goods on schedule.

According to the press release, participants noted how the global pandemic has exacerbated the shortage, and welcomed the swift actions taken by the Administration to work with diplomatic partners to strengthen the public health response in key production locales to support the safe reopening of factories. The Biden Administration announced it was formalizing this effort, with the Department of Commerce and the State Department now working together to manage an early alert system to proactively manage potential semiconductor supply chain disruptions linked to public health developments in key trading partners. The goals of this enhanced effort include early detection of potential disruptions, enhanced engagement with foreign governments and industry, and promotion of transparency across the supply chain, while balancing worker health and safety, and the safe reopening of critical industries, and supporting the local public health response.

In addition, the Commerce Department reportedly launched a request for information that is asking all parts of the supply chain to voluntarily share information about inventories, demand, and delivery dynamics. The goal is to understand and quantify where bottlenecks may exist. Raimondo called on business leaders to respond to the request for information in the next 45 days.